Recent LSU Ph.D. Graduate Combines Physics and Chemistry to Advance Knowledge of Bottlebrush Polymers


by Elizabeth Cui  | September 23, 2020


Karin BichlerLSU Ph.D. graduate Karin J. Bichler

BATON ROUGE, LA-  LSU Ph.D. graduate, Karin J. Bichler, takes an unconventional route to the chemistry laboratory to make advancements in bottlebrush polymer knowledge.

After a bachelor's and master’s degree in physics, Bichler found herself completing her Ph.D. in physics in the chemistry department.

With a different set of skills to her peers, Bichler was able to use an interdisciplinary approach to integrate information and concepts across disciplines.

Bichler expanded her focus from the traditionally narrow, one discipline view, to more of a bird's-eye perspective, combining extensive physics knowledge with chemistry. This allowed her to improve the fundamental understanding of polymers.

Bichler followed professor Gerald J. Schneider across the world from her home country, Germany, to Louisiana, USA, to help make advancements in polymer science.

Moving so far from home and to a different science department, Bichler had a rare determination and drive that carried her through her outstanding work. Bichler worked with other scientists, two graduate students under Schneider's guidance and several instrument scientists at national and international research facilities, to make great advancements in polymer knowledge.

Bottlebrush polymers are relatively new in the realm of polymers and are not yet commercially available. The Schneider research group has been synthesizing the unique polymers in their laboratory and studying their properties.

“We studied the dynamics and structure of bottlebrush polymers, which are just a linear chain and side chains attached to them,” Bichler said. “One main difference is that standard polymers are long linear chains and in contrast to them the bottlebrush polymers are more flexible and elastic.”

Bottlebrush polymers were given their name because of their resemblance to the bottlebrush tree. They branch off from the core, unlike the standard polymer, which forms a liner shape.

Bichler’s approach to her studies allowed a more detailed analysis due to the interplay of physics and chemistry. Having other disciplines under your belt and an integrated and broader range of knowledge can help scientists discover perspectives that might have otherwise been overlooked.

Bichler likes Louisiana and will continue her studies in polymers sciences at LSU. 


To learn more about bottlebrush polymers, read the recently published findings by Bichler and the Schneider research group: